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Might you be Due a PPI Refund?

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The PPI scandal is hardly a young one. The original investigation that uncovered the scandal took place in 2005, and the court order that made refunds mandatory was handed down in 2011. Nonetheless, there are still thousands of claims being made every week, and each month sees hundreds of millions of pounds paid out in refunds and compensation.

Many people are only just discovering that they were mis-sold PPI, and many more remain completely unaware. A quick look over the details of the scandal can help you to work out whether you are due a refund.

Who Might be Affected?

In short, anybody who has taken out credit in recent years might have been affected by the scandal. This includes mortgages, credit cards and personal loans to name a few of the most common examples. Payment protection insurance is designed to cover your monthly repayments if you are made redundant (excluding voluntary redundancy). As such, it can theoretically apply to almost any kind of credit agreement and as such it has been sold and mis-sold with a wide range of different loan products.

When can I Claim?

PPI in itself is a legitimate and often useful product, so not everybody who has had a PPI policy of any kind is entitled to a refund. If you were a victim of mis-selling, however, then a refund is your basic legal right. There are several circumstances that lead to a PPI policy being classed as mis-sold. Perhaps the most shocking example is that some people had PPI attached to their credit agreement without even being told. Others were given policies that were unnecessarily comprehensive in order to bump up costs, or that were designed to ensure they would never be eligible for a claim. One of the most common, and arguably most subtle, tactics involved failing to make customers aware of their rights. When taking out credit, you have a right to shop around for a better PPI policy and you should have been told this by your lender. However, many lenders fostered the idea that customers needed to settle for their own PPI policy.

Making a Claim

If any mis-selling tactics were used to sell you a PPI policy, you have a right to make a claim. You can do this yourself or turn to a claims management company to handle your case for you in return for a portion of the money you claim back. If you are unsure where to begin with your claim or which approach to take, you may wish to seek out more information from the PPI Claims Advice Line website.

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High Interest Current Accounts

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People don’t tend to think of current accounts as a savings option. After all, in the vast majority of cases this is an accurate viewpoint. The standard arrangement is that current accounts are for the funds you many need to immediately access, while savings sit in a dedicated savings account amassing a more generous interest rate.

However, there are a few accounts which shake up this traditional state of affairs. High interest current accounts provide you with the same immediate access to your funds as any other current account, but higher interest rates than many savings products. Currently, TSB and Nationwide both offer 5% current accounts, with 2% and 3% products on the market from a range of other suppliers. This can be a hugely beneficial arrangement, but naturally there are also drawbacks to consider such as charges and restrictions.

The Advantages of High Interest Current Accounts

The main advantages of a high interest current account are obvious. It allows you to benefit from a high interest rate, allowing your savings to build up over time, increasing in value over time. Some high-interest current accounts are inflation beating – something which is attractive even in a savings product in the current market – meaning that the value of your savings will grow in real terms

Some high interest current accounts offer rates that rival or even beat savings accounts which require your money to be tied up and inaccessible for a period of some years. However, far from restricting your funds, you will be placing them in a current account and having the same easy access that any other current account would give. Your money can be accessed through your debit cards, cheques, standing orders, online payment systems and all other such means.

The Disadvantages of High Interest Current Accounts

If current accounts offered the same interest as the best savings products with no drawbacks, savings accounts would quickly become obsolete. As you might expect, however, these very solid advantages come with some very definite drawbacks.

Often one drawback is simply a limit on the amount of money that can benefit from the impressive rate on offer. Nationwide’s and TSB’s market-leading 5% rates, for example, only apply to balances of up to £2,500 and £2,000 respectively. In Nationwide’s case, the rate is also only temporary and will drop to 1% after the first year.

Furthermore, there will almost always be a requirement that you pay in a minimum amount each month, often £500 or £1,000.

Some accounts will also have a fee. For example, Santander offer a current account with a respectable 3% interest valid on balances between £3,000 and a generous £20,000. However, as well as a requirement of at least £500 monthly funding there is also a fee of £2 every month.

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ISA Shakeup is Good News for Savers

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One of the biggest consequences of this year’s budget is a big shakeup of the way ISAs work. This July, New Individual Savings Accounts (NISAs) will replace existing ISA options, giving savers more flexibility and the chance to save more of their money without paying tax on interest.

The NISAs will replace both stocks and shares and cash ISAs, and in a sense they will be a combination of the two. Currently, only around half of the total ISA limit can be saved as cash. Anything up to the full amount can be invested in shares and put into a separate stocks and shares ISA.

When the NISAs come in, however, cash and shares can be placed into the same ISA. There will also be no separate limits on cash savings. Savers will be able to use any combination of cash and shares up to the total limit, including saving the full amount as tax.

The limit on the amount that can be saved in this way is also going up. Currently, it stands at £11,520 through the course of the tax year. After the New ISAs are introduced, however, it will be upped to £15,000.

Various banking and saving organisations welcomed the announcement of the ISA shakeup, including Nationwide Building Society. Nationwide’s Chief Executive Graham Beale welcomed them as a way to “reduce confusion on the differing amounts which could be saved in cash and stocks and shares.” Beale also said that, of greater significance still, it would give people added flexibility when it came to their tax-free savings.

Junior ISAs are also seeing their limits raised. Along with Child Trust Funds, they will enable parents to save up to £4,000 in the tax year for their children, replacing the current limit of £3,720.

According to government estimates, around six million savers in total throughout the UK stand to benefit from these changes, which have been hailed as the biggest shakeup of ISAs since they were first introduced.

A number of other changes relating to savings were also announced in the budget. For example, the 10% tax rate that currently applies to the first £2,790 of income from savings over the personal allowance, will be abolished. This stands to leave around one million more savers free from tax. More generous limits to premium bonds and the introduction of new “pensioner bonds” which offer market-leading interest rates for the over 65s were also welcomed by savers.

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Four Tips When Asking for a Pay Rise

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There are several reasons you may want to ask for a pay rise. You may have just finished a period of particularly hard or successful work or taken on new responsibilities. It may be that you simply haven’t had a pay increase for a long time, or perhaps  you are being offered a new job and feel you deserve or need a higher salary than the employer is suggesting.

However, asking for a pay rise can be a difficult process. As well as the possibility of simply being refused, many people are worried about seeming demanding or rude. Nonetheless, there are several steps you can take to help maximise your chances of success.

Be Confident and Polite

Try not to feel too nervous about bringing up the subject of a pay rise. As long as you are polite, you do not need to worry about seeming rude. As long as you do not seem arrogant and don’t make threats such as leaving the company, you are unlikely to damage your relationship with your boss. However, while you should not seem cocky you should still be confident and prepared not to give up too easily.

Do Your Homework

You will be in a stronger position to negotiate higher pay if you know what you are worth. Find out what the usual pay is for somebody in your field at your level. Try to find out about the pay scale within your company specifically, and what people within your department and at similar levels in other departments are being paid. This will help you know what sort of raise you can ask for realistically, and give you evidence to use when negotiating.

Focus on the Future

Even if you have just completed an exemplary project for the company, you cannot rely on this alone to justify your pay rise. While it is not completely irrelevant, you want the company to pay you more in the future and to keep doing so. In order to justify this, you need to reassure them that they can expect value for money. Talk about what you can bring to the company, and when you mention your past achievements use them as evidence of what you can do in the future as well.

Be Flexible

Negotiations are two-way. If your employer is not willing to meet your requested pay increase, be prepared for a compromise. It would be foolish to lose the chance for any rise at all or to risk damaging your working relationships because you are set on a bigger increase. Try also being prepared to accept alternatives, such as a better benefits package outside your monetary salary.

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Expedient Money Compensation in PPI Claims

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If you are a victim of the PPI fraud in UK, you can get your money back more quickly by approaching the PPI claims procedure in a particular way. One of the best methods of getting a fast PPI refund is to get the aid of a PPI claims company, who usually can help you get the money fast and easily.

Why Use PPI Claims Company?

If you browse online, you will find suggestions that point to the benefits of claiming the PPI money all by yourself. This can be done by sending a direct letter to the bank concerned. Though this has been effective in the past, banks have become more alert now and try their best to stop you from getting the refund. This is the main reason for using a claims company. With an expert guiding, you can expedite the process and get your money back easily.

Considerations in PPI

PPI policy was widely sold by banks as well as credit card companies some years back. Nearly everyone who took a loan or credit card was sold a policy. The PPI scam started because most of the policies were not legal. The terms or the conditions stated in the policy were not conducive for the borrower to claim money from the policy. The reality is that PPI is an optional addition only. Since the banks were exposed eventually, they were forced to give out a refund. But this may not continue for long. So you need to get PPI help immediately to get the compensation money you deserve.

If you want a proper, quick and lasting solution, you need to ensure first that you are eligible for the claim and then send a letter to the bank concerned whether on your own or through a claim company. In most cases, the PPI claims are refunded within six weeks.

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Resurgence for Savings Accounts That Beat Inflation

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2013 has seen a drastic improvement in the situation for those looking to make the most of their savings. At the start of the year, only three accounts offered an interest rate capable of beating inflation. Following the recent drop in inflation to 2.1%, there are not 51 accounts on the UK market that offer enough interest to beat inflation.

Of these 51 accounts, 24 are cash ISAs and 27 are fixed-rate bonds. However, you are required to tie up your money for at least three years if you want to benefit from inflation-beating interest rates.

These figures apply to those who pay tax at the basic rate, at least in the case of accounts that are subject to tax as opposed to ISAs. In order to still beat the inflation rate after tax, basic rate taxpayers need an account to pay at least 2.63% interest. New three year savings accounts that fit into this category have recently been launched by both Leeds Building Society and Virgin Money, both offering an interest rate of 3%.

However, higher rate taxpayers will still face more difficulty in finding an account that will grow their savings at a rate that counters or exceeds depreciation from inflation. At least 3.5% interest will be required after tax, meaning that savers in this category will have to turn to seven year bonds to find sufficient rates.

MoneyComms expert Andrew Hagger recommends sticking to accounts that tie up your savings for two years at most. He points out that the difference in rates between these accounts and their three year counterparts is not large, meaning that there will not be a very big difference in earnings unless you are investing a very large amount of money. The shorter terms make it easier to switch accounts when in line with changes in rates, which can ultimately lead to benefits as well as simply meaning your funds are not tied up for as long.

A recent addition to the market for these two year accounts includes a 2.4% fixed bond from Shawbrook Bank, which is currently a market leader. This rate compares to 2.65% for the same bank’s equivalent three year bond.

Regarding the current state of rates, Hagger points out that there is “plenty of noise” surrounding data on the issue at present. This is partly due to the Funding for Lending, scheme, which is due to reach an end next year.

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Why Trust Your Savings to Smaller Banks?

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The UK seems to be nicely recovering from the economic crisis that has plagued us for so long. But nonetheless, the credit crunch has taught us an important lesson. With all levels of society feeling the squeeze and “too big to fail” banks hitting rocky waters, the recession showed us how vital it is to ensure your savings are safely and wisely invested.

If you want to ensure your savings are safe in the event of future economic meltdowns, you may be surprised by one of the most useful and least well-known pieces of advice. Smaller banks are often safer in the event of economic problems.

The temptation is to think that bigger banks are like big businesses – secured by their sheer size when trouble hits, and with enough backing to see them through any troubles. But the recent recession showed us that this is not always the case.

Smaller banks, on the other hand, tend to favour secure investments and more careful lending policies. When trouble hits, this can mean they are the ones who survive relatively unshaken. Contrary to many people’s expectations, they often offer some of the most competitive interest rates on your savings as a result.

One smaller but still well-known banks include the Cooperative Bank . This particular example also has two other key advantages. Firstly, it is backed by a successful business, giving it extra buoyancy in rough economic waters. This advantage is also shared by some banks tied to similar businesses such as Tesco and Marks and Spencer’s. Secondly, the ethical investment policy means your savings help make the world a better place.

There are also some more obscure banks that are similarly worth considering. For example Reliance Bank is smaller than the Cooperative Bank and much less well-known, but is still an excellent provider of banking services. Though small it has shown great resilience so far, existing since the late 19th century. Perhaps surprisingly, it is owned by the Salvation Army, with proceeds supporting their work.

As you might expect, there are some disadvantages to choosing a smaller bank, but these are less than you might expect. They mostly relate to the very small banks such as Reliance. If you bank with them, you will not be able to make a balance enquiry on most cash machines, and will only have access to telephone banking during standard business hours. One thing you might expect to be a problem – the lack of high street branches – is actually no obstacle for most people. Paying in is handled in branches of a nominated major high street bank.

 

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Going On Vacation? Follow These 4 Tips!

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If you’re worried about the high costs of taking a family vacation, so much that your considering skipping it this season, then it’s time to take heart. There are still many ways to enjoy a budget-friendly holiday, if you make the right choices.

You may be at in a profession that might get you discount on a certain holiday, or you may have some holiday vouchers lying in plain sight that you may have overlooked (being optimistic helps too!). For example, did you know that if you are a teacher, you may be able to get a teacher discount when booking a Disney package. Here are a few ways you can also fix up your budget for the holiday. Remember, most of the tips are relevant to holidays in the US, so this article is for you if you’re planning to go there (from abroad) for a holiday!

Use privileges you already have

You might not know it, but you may be carrying a discount opportunity in your wallet right now. Certain credit or debit cards are good for free admission to about 120 zoos, science centers, botanical gardens and museums across the U.S. on the first weekend of every month (museums.bankofamerica.com). If you’re a AAA member, you can save up to 20 percent on Hertz car rentals and up to 40 percent on tickets to theme parks, including Sesame Place, Six Flags and Busch Gardens.

Pack the apps

For only $2, you can download the “Lowest Gas Prices Finder” app onto an iPhone to find the cheapest gas prices, which will be a great idea especially if you plan on road tripping across the States. All you’ll need to do is plug in your area’s zip code, and a list of nearby gas stations with the best prices pops up. Another good one is called Mobile Magic, a $10 app for (potential) Verizon Wireless customers that tracks wait times for popular rides at Disney World as well as the whereabouts of Mickey, Cinderella and other characters.

Consider cruising

An all-inclusive cruise could reduce dining expenses and the stress of planning activities and outings. As an example, the Royal Caribbean’s largest and newest ship called ‘Oasis of the Seas’, offers play groups, craft workshops and sea-friendly science experiments in its Youth Zone. Babysitting is also readily available for tots ages 1 and up for $10 to $15 per hour.

Teach and save

If you’re a teacher and you want to travel, then know that the government wants to chip in for your vacation. Full-time teachers and faculty at accredited institutions can sign up for an International Teacher Identity Card (ITIC), which is great for reduced airfare on major airlines, discounts on hotel accommodations and car rentals, and also basic insurance.

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How to Make a Claim for Successful PPI Compensation and Refund

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PPI or Payment Protection Insurance was originally formulated by lending institutions and is geared towards helping borrowers in keeping up with payments on loans such as mortgage, credit card, or car loans in the unfortunate events of illness, unemployment, and disability among others. Although the functions of a PPI policy are legal and beneficial to both borrowers and lenders, PPI has been missold by banks and lending companies for many years. There are over 3 million borrowers in the UK who were duped into purchasing PPI despite their ineligibility. A handful of these borrowers were also found to be completely unaware of the benefits as well as the limitations of PPI, thus creating financial difficulties for them.

If you want to reclaim cash back for the PPI premiums the banks have taken, plus interest, there is an efficient way of undergoing this process and gain compensation successfully.

DIY PPI Claims or Expert Help from Claims Management Companies

There are two ways on how you can tackle the process of claiming PPI compensation:

1-      You may go ahead and do the claims compensation for PPI by yourself. Be prepared for a long and tedious process though. Despite the fact that banks have agreed on taking in claims from borrowers missold with PPI, they seem to have taken their precious time in assessing these claims. If you are not prepared to wait a long time, you may end up frustrated with your lenders. There is no guarantee that the claim you filed will be successful. According to the Financial Services Authority, only 15% of PPI claims were approved by banks and similar lending companies.

2-      There are claims management companies like the PPIClaimsCo that offer no-win-no fee services. They provide assistance in processing a PPI claim for you. A lot of these companies guarantee successful compensation. If your claim was evaluated to receive compensation, a portion of the refund would go towards paying off the service rendered by the claims management company.

Borrowers can take either routes and have great chances of claiming the refund that they deserve. Of course, both have their respective advantages and disadvantages. Choose the solution which you think matches your personal needs and time limits/constraints.

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